A vast preserve between the eastern edge of the Orlando metro and Titusville, Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area is known for its immersive landscapes.
Preserved for many decades as a ranch and a hunting ground, it became a Florida State Park in the 1970s.
The Florida Trail Association built two loop trails within the heart of the preserve soon after.
An inner loop within the White Loop at Tosohatchee, the Yellow Loop uses the Yellow Trail and the orange-blazed Florida Trail for a satisfying 3.6-mile loop.
While the preserve is a hunting ground again, under management of Florida Fish and Wildlife, the beauty of its woodlands remains the same.
This loop provides access to a virgin cypress strand along Jim Creek and winds through hammocks where ancient oaks and cedars stand sentinel.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 3.6 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.49940, -80.94100
Fees: $4 per person
Restroom: At the entrance gate to Tosohatchee
Land manager: Florida Fish & Wildlife
Leashed dogs welcome. Mosquitoes, mud, and wading possible. Do not attempt this hike when the St. Johns River is in flood stage.
FWC permits seasonal hunting. Be aware of hunt dates and wear blaze orange clothing during hunts.
From Interstate 95 in Titusville, follow SR 50 for 10 miles west into Christmas. Turn south on Taylor Creek Rd. The entrance is 2.9 miles south on the left. Follow Ranch Rd; the White Trail crosses it before you are forced to turn left but there is no trailhead. Turn right on Powerline Rd and go 1.8 miles east to Fish Hole Rd. Turn right. Continue south to Ranch Rd and turn left. It is one lane, very narrow compared to Fish Hole Rd. It ends at Parking Area 35. An alternate access point to the loop is via the eastbound yellow blazes south of Ranch Rd at Parking Area 33 along Fish Hole Rd. Using this access point adds 1.2 miles to the hike.
As you might guess from the name, Ranch Road used to lead to the farmstead inside Beehead Ranch, one of the former incarnations of Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area.
Start your hike by taking the boardwalk around a stand of blue flag iris behind the Parking Area 35 sign.
The boardwalk curves into a dense palm hammock. When the trail opens into a clearing soon after, you’ve reached a part of the homestead of the old Beehead Ranch.
Nothing remains but this clearing. Continue through it into the next oak and palm hammock, the trail threading through it deftly.
At times, it feels like a walk through a maze of tree trunks. But both the yellow blazes and the worn footpath are distinct.
After a mile, reach a four-way junction. Blazed orange, the Florida Trail is to the left and right.
The Swamp Spur goes straight ahead to the Jim Creek floodplain, home to cypress trees that were never logged.
As long as there has been no wading along the footpath thus far, the quarter-mile round-trip spur is worth the walk to see the trees.
The trail narrows quickly to slip between stubby cypress knees. Pause to look up at the height of the giants in this cypress forest.
At your feet, fluted cypress bases and a wonderland of cypress knees in all sorts of fantastical shapes.
Beware of the deep mud holes close to the creek near the “Trail End” sign. Depending on water levels, it may not be possible to reach the sign.
Retrace the rough path, watching for blazes and trip hazards, to the four-way trail junction. Turn left to follow the Florida Trail southbound towards Tiger Branch.
Crossing a grassy remnant of Ranch Road, the trail proceeds up and over a berm into an oak hammock. Red cedars stand tall among the oaks.
The footpath snakes along the edge of a palm hammock, drawing close to the Jim Creek floodplain.
Passing through a portal of palms the trail swings into another showy hammock, defined by the arching limbs of live oaks and a gateway of cedars into the maze of palms.
Beyond a towering slash pine, the trail gains a little elevation and rises into an upland of pines and oaks, the pines crowded closely.
At 1.8 miles, cross a muddy ditch bridged by a series of concrete steps. Past the next grassy forest road, continue into pine flatwoods where a blueberry patch thrives.
After a turn left, a straightaway lined with wax myrtle and saw palmetto transitions to a corridor of young cabbage palms. The footpath may be mushy.
An enormous southern red cedar rises above the edge of a showy palm hammock, where tall cabbage palms thread through the dense canopy.
Crossing a depression, the trail rises into pine-palm flatwoods and crosses a grassy forest road. Just beyond, at 2.8 miles, is an important signposted turn.
Leave the orange blazes of the Florida Trail behind and turn right to follow the yellow blazes.
Within a tenth of a mile, meet yellow blazes coming in from the left from Parking Area 33 on Fish Hole Rd. Continue straight to stay on the Yellow Loop.
The trail reaches a wall of an oak hammock where the understory is jam-packed with saw palmetto, the tree limbs swaddled in bromeliads.
Follow the footpath into a jungle-like beauty spot, where ferns swarm the forest floor and poison ivy creeps into the footpath. Use caution.
Rising out of the lush hammock, the trail edges a floodplain dominated by sweetgum and red maple. Towering pines and large live oaks adjoin the trail.
Complete the loop by a cautious walk across a narrow old wooden bridge over a slough, which conveys the Yellow Trail to the Parking Area 35 trailhead at 3.6 miles.
Learn more about Tosohatchee Reserve
These trails interconnect with and overlay parts of the Yellow Loop
See our photos of the Yellow Loop at Tosohatchee
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
At Seminole Ranch Conservation Area in Christmas, the Florida Trail follows a linear 4.9 mile route through a string of hydric hammocks in the St. Johns River floodplain
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Hike up to 5 miles on levees through the marshes of the St. Johns River at Canaveral Marshes Conservation Area between Orlando and Titusville.